Friday, December 7, 2012

Gary Bettman is a...Oh, you know.

My first post after moving from Colorado, and it has to be like this. It's sort of a mixed blessing, I suppose. On the one hand, I want nothing more than to hear that a deal has been reached and that NHL hockey will be returning to us shortly. On the other, if that were to happen mere days after I leave my home state of Michigan, thus meaning I'd miss out on potential Red Wings games would infuriate me.

In a way, I guess that's sort of symbolic of this whole ordeal, because it seems like no matter what happens we're fucked. Please allow Eric Cartman convey to you how I feel as a hockey fan.

I actually waited to write this because I was livid as things progressed last night and this morning. It was just beyond comprehension to me, so I turned to a buddy of mine who runs his own business - he's a great source of insight into the business world. I posed the following hypothetical question to him:

Let's say you were in a business negotiation of the gravest importance - without a deal you cannot operate your business. The negotiations seem to be going well; progress is being made and compromises appear to be happening. Then one side wants to bring in someone to help round out of the negotiations, and you think that guy is a dick. You just absolutely cannot stand him. Would you continue to negotiate or would you end the talks and pull all of your offers and compromises?

His exact words were that if negotiating a deal, even given the circumstances and the fact that the other guy is a gigantic asshole, were essential for him to conduct his business, "I don't see how I would really have a choice." Meaning that he would absolutely negotiate. 

It would seem that despite that very obvious conclusion, that the National Hockey League felt very differently last night. After Wednesday everybody walked out of the room feeling very positive and those happy vibes cascaded over hockey writers and fans across the continent. Then suddenly everything turned to shit. As details emerged we learned a couple key facts: The PA suggested that they have federal mediators return to the talks, no doubt to help bring compromise to some sticky points of contention that had been brought closer but still not finalized. The NHL said no. The PA also requested that Donald Fehr - AKA the guy they hired to represent them in these negotiations and who is ultimately responsible in presenting offers from the NHL to the PA to vote on - be brought into the room. The NHL said no to that, too, saying that doing so would be a "deal beaker". 

Essentially, the NHL wanted to keep anyone out of the room who they felt they could not manipulate, bully and intimidate into taking the deal they wanted the players to take. The message the owners have sent to the players and fans is crystal clear: the goal of having even a partial season of hockey is secondary to the goal of breaking the union, especially the union that is being run by Donald Fehr. They don't want to negotiate if that guy is in the room, because they think that guy is a dick.

And for the record, he is kind of a dick. (Savulich/News)
There seemed hope when the owners compromised on the "Make Whole" provision - meaning that any money that players would lose in the first two years of the new CBA due to changes in cap space or other contract changes would be reimbursed by the league. However the owners attached to that compromise three demands that they deemed of the highest importance and were non-negotiable: Limiting contracts to 5 years, the length of the CBA would need to last for 10 years, and no more than a 5% variance in players' salaries from year to year. 

This is the equivalent of going to your employer and demanding to be paid the money they agreed to pay you, and your employer agreeing to pay you the money they signed a contract agreeing to pay you, but in return...

I really am beginning to wonder if there aren't owners orchestrating this whole lockout as a means to cover up their damned near fraudulent contract signings. I'm looking at you, Craig Leopold. You spend $98 million a piece of two guys, negotiating outside of good faith knowing full well that you can fuck those guys out of that money with an extended lockout and a punishing CBA. Entice them to sign with your garbage team and then bust their contracts down because "We're not making money...we need to fix how much we're spending...[the Wild's] biggest expense by far is player salaries". It's no wonder when you type in Craig Leopold's name into Google, the fourth auto complete option is "Craig Leopold Hypocrite".

So please, NHL owners, please buy me a $1 Hotdog and one of those giant "We're #1" foam fingers. I'd at least like a cheap meal and a souvenir of the evening where you guys fucked me. At least a souvenir besides a sore asshole and shattered hopes and dreams. 

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